Response by Monique Dietvorst– Lead Admin and Creator of Parental Alienation Canada
I am respectfully responding to the “Gendered” violence protest letter opposing PA flag-raising, as follows in standard font (*the verbatim complaint segments are in italics):
On April 25, 2021, several big-city mayors in Ontario ceremoniously issued proclamations for “Parental Alienation Awareness Day.” They made public statements signalling support, linking “parental alienation” to child abuse, domestic violence and even false accusations.
Parental alienation is scientifically linked to child abuse, domestic violence, and false accusations. Clinical, legal, and scientific evidence on parental alienation has accumulated over the last 35 years. In fact, a full 40% of all scientifically-rigorous, peer-reviewed research has been generated and published since 2016! There are, to date, more than one thousand peer-reviewed articles, chapters, and books published that affirm parental alienation. Empirical research on the topic has expanded to the point that it has achieved blossoming stage as a research field. (Bernet & Harman, 2019; Lorandos & Bernet, 2020; and Lorandos, 2020). Increasing public awareness and subsequent support from city council and its mayor toward eradicating ALL child abuse (including parental alienation), intimate partner violence (IPV), and misuse of the family court system (e.g., false allegations of abuse) urgently needed and appreciated.
As violence against women advocates, lawyers, and researchers we are deeply concerned that elected officials may have unknowingly amplified harmful misconceptions about the controversial concept of “parental alienation” often promoted by men with abusive histories to rationalize access to their children.
There is no evidence for the above claim. Parental alienation appears to be “controversial” only to several special interest groups that directly profit from the “high conflict” divorce industry. It appears that “gendered” violence groups have conflated the issue of violence against women with parental alienation, only discussing women (not male victims of violence), and ignoring mothers who themselves are alienated from their children due to this scourge. Parental alienation is an urgent, global, psychological form of child abuse. The dishonest claims made to the contrary by a few masquerading “experts” are found only in non-scientific, non-peer-reviewed, and out-dated sources.
Originally coined in the late 1980s by American psychiatrist Richard Gardner, “parental alienation syndrome” was used to describe situations in which one parent intentionally interferes with the children’s relationships with the other parent. In reality, it obscures reasons why one parent would need to protect the children from the other in custody disputes.
For any type of abuse, there is always a risk of abusers pretending to be victims. This risk creates the need for clear standards and reliable screening. The Five-Factor Model of Parental Alienation provides that standard by filtering out any cases involving abuse or neglect (Bernet, 2020; Lorandos & Bernet, 2020).
Gardner’s problematic research framed all domestic situations with the misogynist assumption that innocent fathers are being manipulated by conniving ex-wives. Not surprisingly, men with histories of abuse desperately embraced this unproven theory. Gardner’s work attracted limited attention as his “parental alienation syndrome” was never accepted by medical or professional associations and it received serious criticism from judges, lawyers, child psychologists and other child welfare and family violence professionals.
“Gendered” violence groups present a false narrative that domestic violence and parental alienation are gendered issues. Male-bashing is a devious means for some IPV groups to gaslight a fear of men so as to promote their own agenda. They deny parental alienation by citing a fraudulent “study” by Joan Meier (2020), who claimed that abusive parents use parental alienation as a defense. In reality, it is Meier’s results that are not accepted by the academic community. This study has a series of transparency problems, it is not peer-reviewed, the results cannot be replicated, and it was funded by “gendered” violence groups for a particular agenda. The Parental Alienation Study Group (PASG), in contrast, is a reputable international organization of recognized scholars (https://pasg.info/).
The troubling myth underpinning “parental alienation” is that women lie about abuse to alienate their children from their fathers. Too often this falsehood influences legal processes as mothers’ disclosures of violence are discounted by family courts who fail to factor it into custody and visitation decisions. Haley Hrymak, a research lawyer, notes psychologists and counsellors sometimes fail to even ask about violence in the family.
There is no history of IPV (aka: domestic violence) being dismissed in custody cases. PASG is unaware of “credible allegations of child physical or sexual abuse” being dismissed. The complainant uses anecdotal evidence that courts are judging “such allegations” as deliberate efforts by the mothers to manipulate their child…”. Instead, valid research demonstrates that courts deliberate on the evidence gained via investigation of allegations of abuse on a case-by-case basis, and make their decisions accordingly.
Supposed “cases” stated by the complainant do not constitute evidence-based judicial decisions. Though the violence may have been alleged and even perhaps substantiated in some cases, there is no statistically significant conclusion that mothers are being penalized for making abuse allegations. In fact, courts treat allegations of abuse very seriously; they are not ignored. Second, it IS statistically significant that mothers often falsely allege abuse by their children’s father. Such allegations are investigated thoroughly and found to be either unfounded or unsubstantiated.
Ignoring men’s violence against women can have lethal results. The Ontario Death Review Committee review of 445 deaths found that women were victims from male intimate partners in over 80% of the cases. Children were homicide victims in 11% of the cases. Separation and a prior history of domestic violence were the two most common warning signs. When fathers killed children, it was most often an act of revenge against the mother for leaving the abusive relationship.
Men are as likely to be victims of IPV as are women (and PA is a form of IPV). Women are more often the killer and abuser of children. The largest study ever undertaken was done by U.S. Health and Human Services in 2004 and involved 718,000 cases of child abuse with a subset of child fatalities. The most frequent perpetrator of both child abuse and child fatality was the biological mother, involved in 58% of cases of physical child abuse and 59% of child fatalities. Fathers by comparison were involved in 40% of each. Twenty percent of each form of abuse/fatality involved mothers and fathers acting together. .
The aforementioned study results do not indicate that women are inherently more violent towards children. In women’s traditional gender role, they are more often the primary caregiver and custodial parent. This may explain why women are more often the perpetrator.
The concept of “parental alienation” is often misused in custody disputes to divert attention away from allegations of child abuse or intimate partner violence, specifically men’s violence against women. It is increasingly common for an abuser to respond to his partner’s evidence of violence by alleging that she is attempting to alienate the children from him. This diverts focus from the initial claim that he abused her. In these cases, courts recommend or order assessments to assist with decisions regarding custody.
The complainant is here repeating their strawman argument with unsubstantiated anecdotes.
Abusive fathers submit reports claiming mothers fabricate allegations of abuse to alienate the children. Or, mothers are described as paranoid. Research from George Washington University, Law School found this contentious tactic worked. Fathers who raise “parental alienation” and use it as a defence in response to evidence of their violence in the family won custody of their children at a staggeringly high rate. Other researchers find parental alienation claims lead courts to discount evidence of paternal abuse, remove children from parents (primarily mothers) who seek to protect them and place children with abusive parents — even when judges acknowledge family violence has occurred. Women and children are silenced as lawyers, mediators, evaluators, and judges fail to investigate legitimate claims of partner abuse and concerns for safety in favour of punishing them for resisting contact.
The complainant is repeating a similar anecdote. There are no credible allegations of child physical or sexual abuse” being dismissed though we scoured the IPV literature to find such peer-reviewed, evidence-based data.
In April Statistics Canada released new data reporting 44% of women have experienced this violence in their lifetime and that severe forms of intimate partner violence are five times more prevalent for women than for men.
The multi-billion dollar “gendered” violence industry applies something called a Crime Filter to Canada’s statistics on domestic violence. Domestic violence stats show relative gender parity when we ask men and women the same questions. For the Crime filter, male-bashing, gendered violence ideologues train police to only arrest men by default if there is a domestic violence call, and then these same ideologues use these same arrests as proof that men are “five times” more likely to abuse their partner.
It is not just mothers who are harmed by domestic violence, there are deeply damaging impacts on children who live in homes where there is violence regardless of they witness it. Men who abuse their partners are more likely to abuse their children and use children for coercive control of the mothers.
By this same logic, children would also be harmed by watching their mothers abuse their fathers. It is unconscionable to me that domestic violence groups have conflated the issue of violence against women with parental alienation, only discussing women (not male victims of violence), completely ignoring an urgent, global, psychological child abuse crisis, and use non-scientific, non-peer-reviewed, and out-dated sources while masquerading as “experts”.
At a time when rates of men’s violence against women are rising and intimate partner violence has become a pandemic within a pandemic, elected officials must speak out about domestic violence and child abuse, rather than cause harm by promoting this so-called “Parental Alienation Awareness Day.”
The so-called escalation of men’s violence against women is based on ideological male-bashing, not evidence, peer reviewed, data.
We urge you to rethink the proclamation and to disavow this misinformation campaign. Instead, governments should focus their vast resources on making families safer and increasing access to justice. Vital changes are needed, including the expansion of the family court support worker program, and mandatory family violence training for all who play a role in family court. Most importantly, mayors should be leaders in the movement to address and prevent men’s violence against women, not pawns in an anti-woman disinformation campaign.
I agree that governments need to focus on resources to make families safe for children. Governments should examine the sources for both the multi billion dollar, “gendered” violence industry, and also review the standards of the Parental Alienation Study Group (PASG), and judge the motives accordingly. I am attaching the studies references that are my primary sources for this letter.
We at Parental Alienation Canada and the PASG (https://pasg.info/) applaud your efforts to eradicate parental alienation for healthy families and communities.
Creator of Parental Alienation Canada